#41: Mindset for Advocacy, or, to “Toot Your Own Horn”

Have a Mindset to Advocate for yourself, or in other Words,  “Toot Your Own Horn”

Have you ever wondered how to advocate for your best traits, or “toot your own horn?” Sharing what you’re good at takes a courageous, confident mindset.

I’ve coached a lot of individuals from all walks of life and career areas who wanted more confidence. That isn’t what they said when they asked to be coached. But it was what they were seeking.

What Do People Want?

At first, we want to figure out how to be happier at work. Or, we want to know what to do to grow a coaching business the “right way.” Or we are senior directors in the corporate world and in other leadership roles/ And, we want to learn how to navigate challenging managers, co-workers, or situations.

In several cases, we gain confidence pretty quickly. But, as we begin taking actions consistent with our decisions, we second-guess things ant stop again.  And we are back at the place of feeling stuck. We wait for someone outside ourselves to approve, guide us, or give us confidence.

In all of these circumstances, many individuals I have coached had an unclear idea of who they really were. And, their sense of control was focused on things outside themselves, rather than what was inside them.

For each of these people, this feeling was frustrating. It is something I call “being stuck.”

What Does it Mean to Be Stuck?

When we are stuck, the way forward is unclear. It seems impossible to know what the “right” answers are. Possibilities are limited.

There is drama, and things feel heavy.

We may also feel isolated—like we’re on our own to figure things out with no good ideas about how to do that.

This stuck feeling stays with us, from work to personal life. We believe that if we just put in more time and effort, we’ll magically become free and resolve this problem.

And sometimes we do.

But it comes back again, and we’re waiting again for the right people, resources, and solutions to help us get unstuck again.

What Would Help Build Confidence?

What we usually want is an internal compass that makes sense to us.

We want to take action without waiting for the right answer from someone else. And, we want to trust our own instincts and thoughts.

Basically, we are were looking for confidence and clarity.

Many of the people I’ve coached have wanted what we all want. To know who we are, know that we are enough, and know that we matter.

What Do We Lose if We Don’t Adopt a Confident Mindset?

When we’re not sure about who we really are, we can never become the best version of ourselves.

We question everything.

And, we take longer to do things because we’re always looking outside ourselves for the answers.

Ultimately, we wait for someone to tell us that we’re on the right track. Or that we are enough and will succeed in something we’re planning or considering.

Confidence from Within Helps You “Toot Your Own Horn”

My Grandmother Gladys sold braziers. On a typical day, she would observe others and see a woman across the street walking by.

And she would run across the street to tell the woman how she needed a new bra. And how she could help.

She naturally sold to women with the intent of making their lives better and improving not only their appearance but their physical posture and sense of overall well-being.

Gladys had no problem advocating for what she sold, because she knew it was valuable. And, she was naturally aware of her ability to help others.

How Does Advocacy Work?

As a music director, I disliked the idea of advocacy. Advocating for your job, your profession, your band, your music program, and all of these seemed like sales.

In my first band director job, I thought the people who hired me should already know and understand why having a band program was important to their school.

After all, they hired me, so they clearly already thought music and band were important. I thought I should not have to beg for budget money or justify why I should be paid for the 23 basketball games at which our pep band performed throughout the winter.

Ongoing Advocacy Creates a Mindset

In my next band director job, I learned about recruiting and retention—and this means that you help children (and their parents) understand why they should join the band and plan to stay in the band later throughout their high school years. It also means that you help the parents understand that they needed to rent an instrument for the child, and plan to purchase it over time.

Sure, we had some school-owned instruments to loan children who could not afford that, but advocacy was critical to help these children and their parents realize that in order to step into a lifetime of music and all that comes with that, they needed to actually own an instrument and not just rent or borrow one for a few months and hope it worked out.

At some point in that job, I had an elementary school principal who asked me to write him something to support why we had a band program at his school—why I thought it was important and justified. It got to the point where I presented at the state music educators’ conference on the subject of recruiting and retaining band students, and I was surprised to find the room packed with 200 educators, all eager to find solutions to help them bring children into music programs and maintain that motivation to continue.

Advocacy is Like Selling, Yet It Isn’t

Advocacy is a lot like selling. But it’s different because you’re not just trying get your product into the hands of your buyer. It’s much more than that.

You believe that what you’re promoting has intrinsic value, and is of long-term worth. You’ve experienced it yourself, and it’s changed your life.

Because of your own experience, you want to share it with everyone you know and take it to people you don’t even know, because it’s that amazing.

Basically, you’re trying to share what you believe to be the lifelong benefits of learning or of having a particular experience, for those who participate, as well as those whom they impact and influence because you absolutely know that it can change their lives for the better.

So How do You Advocate for Yourself?

Initially, most of us don’t see the need to “toot your own horn” at work.

There’s this idea that if we go to work every day, and if we do what we’re supposed to do, at some point we’re going to get recognized for it and paid more.

Or you will get more responsibilities and opportunities.

But either way, the belief is that if you work hard and do your best, it will pay off.

Advocating for yourself is taking all of this effort you’re putting in and the great worth you have as a human being and a worker, and sharing that.

It’s not bragging, but it might feel that way at first. Sharing your abilities and achievements with others around you is the only way they will know about your unique strengths.

Why Don’t Others See us Clearly?

Other people will view what we do through some kind of filter or lens, shaded by their background, way of thinking, experience, culture, and so many other aspects of who they are.

No matter how great we are or what our work is, there will always be people who see our efforts as weak, misguided, or common.

Confidence Makes It Better

Our own words about ourselves tell the story much better. So first, we must know ourselves—our strengths and weaknesses.

And, we must have our own internal self-worth that is not dependent on others’ opinions, their validation, their accolades or judgments, and our rank or salary.

Just as Gladys naturally sold women’s bras to strangers and I shared the lifelong benefits of band with everyone, we can all advocate for our value and contributions in the workplace.

When we come at things with a confidence about our own worth, things become subject to us, and we can do what we dream about.

With a solid sense of self-knowledge, we can steer our efforts in the right directions as we use our strengths and recognize weaker areas, and stop over-focusing on those parts of ourselves.

Advocating our value to others is easier because we confidently know it and aren’t waiting for others to tell us.

This week, take some time to advocate for your best traits. your contributions. Toot your own horn.